Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Forever Girl

The Forever Girl
by Alexander McCall Smith

Genre:  Fiction
Published:  2/11/14 by Knopf Doubleday
Pages:  320
Format:  Advanced Reader Copy

My rating:
2.5 out of 5 stars

The Forever Girl follows the love stories (or perhaps lack of love stories?) of a mother and daughter. Amanda, the mother, who has been married for years with two children, slowly realizes that she has fallen out of love with her husband. Meanwhile her daughter Clover falls in love with her childhood best friend, but he doesn't seem to feel the same way about her. That's pretty much the story as this novel follows them through the years of their lives.

First, I really didn't like the way Amanda just decided she had fallen out of love with her husband. She seemed so flippant about the idea, like it wasn't a big deal at all. And the conversation about it between Amanda and her husband David felt the same. In the matter of just a few sentences, they both agreed they didn't love each other and they should separate, as if neither of them had any sort of feelings at all. It just didn't feel realistic to me.

I can see how many people would not like Clover as a character, as she is fairly pathetic in her continual moping about James and her refusal to move on with her life. I didn't find this as obnoxious as others have described, and I think I preferred her story over Amanda's story. But by the end, I was ready to shout at her, "Either move on or tell him how you feel already!!"

This story held my interest at times, while at other times I didn't care much what was happening. Towards the end, Clover goes to Australia and Singapore, and it was at this point that I thought the book was finally getting interesting. At least it felt like something was finally going to happen! Then the book ended. I don't want to spoil the ending, but it was very sudden and not really that believable based on everything that had already happened in the book. It kind of felt like Mary Poppins just walked in and snapped her fingers and everything fell into place. If Alexander McCall Smith wanted to end his book this way, he should have written it in more detail to help the readers understand why the characters were doing what they are doing, which might possibly make it a more believable and realistic ending.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

This Star Won't Go Out

This Star Won't Go Out  
by Esther Earl

Genre:  Memoir
Published:  1/28/14 by Penguin Young Readers
Pages:  384
Format:  Hardcover

My rating:
5 out of 5 stars

Esther Earl was diagnosed with cancer when she was twelve years old. She fought cancer for four years, all the while journaling and blogging and vlogging about her life and thoughts, until she passed away at the age of sixteen. Her life and her struggle with cancer were the inspiration for one of my favorite books, The Fault in our Stars by John Green.

This is a hard one to review. It is not so much a book as it is a collection of journals and writings by Esther Earl and about Esther Earl. It is heartbreaking and inspiring and raw and real. It doesn't read like a normal book, as most of these writings are personal and were never intended for publication. Yet altogether, these writings present an incredible picture of an amazing young girl. While I didn't know Esther personally, reading this book made me feel like I knew her. And for that, I am grateful.

While reading these words about Esther, I was unexpectedly encouraged and inspired. I thought this would be a really sad book to read. And it was really sad. But it wasn't completely depressing. Rather than ending the book thinking all about how sad it was that Esther was taken too soon, I ended thinking more about what an amazing and full life she lived. It is the same way I felt after finishing The Fault in Our Stars. I think it is good to remember that even a short life can be a good and meaningful and happy life.

Another thing that was inspiring about Esther's writing was her faith in God and her hope in the face of death. For a sixteen year old, she was so mature emotionally and spiritually. I was so amazed by her eagerness to trust in God and God's plan for her life even in the midst of cancer. If I ever were to find myself in a similar situation, I hope that I can approach it with as much faith as Esther.

I think Esther is unique because of how much she wrote and recorded about herself. Even though she died several years ago, she continues to live on and make a difference in the life of so many people (myself included!). How amazing to have her journals! And her stories and drawings. And a letter to her future 17 year old self. Not to mention her blog, twitter feed, youtube videos (I just sat down and watched ALL of them). Because Esther took the time to express her thoughts and share her thoughts, they are now forever etched into our world. I'm inspired to write more after reading Esther's journals.

One things that Esther repeatedly talked about was her desire to make a difference in the world. She was afraid that she would not live long enough to make a difference. How wrong she was! This Star Won't Go Out is the most perfect title for this book. I believe that she will continue to impact more people than she ever could have imagined, and her star will continue to shine brightly long after she is gone. Rest in awesome, Esther.